The Process Operations Technology program at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College has been named a winner of the Excellence and Equity in Community College STEM Award by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program and the Siemens Foundation.
Eight winning programs across the country are receiving this award for not only providing outstanding preparation for high-demand jobs in advanced manufacturing, energy, healthcare or information technology, but also for their intentional outreach and support of diverse populations that typically are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. Winning colleges will receive $50,000. Half will be allocated for program development, and half will be allocated as scholarships for outstanding students, known as Siemens Technical Scholars.
“We are so excited by the opportunities this award provides to our institution and our Process Operations Technology students,” said Dr. Mary S. Graham, MGCCC president. “At MGCCC, our goal is to provide outstanding education and training for the diverse population of our four-county district so they have a clear pathway to great-paying jobs and advanced degrees.”
U.S. jobs in STEM fields are projected to grow at almost double the rate of non-STEM occupations. More than half of these jobs require only an associate’s degree and pay more than $50,000 annually. Students of color and those from low-income backgrounds are underrepresented in STEM, a gap that is evident in college program enrollment. For instance, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, Black and Hispanic students made up 38 percent of community college students but only earned 28 percent of STEM credentials in 2016.
“It’s not enough for community colleges to offer great pathways to high-demand, high-wage jobs—they must make sure that all students have equitable access to these opportunities,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. “These eight programs show how it’s done, starting by reaching out to underserved populations and following through to ensure that students of all backgrounds engage in the kind of education needed for them to graduate and be successful in the workforce.”
Four Process Operations Technology students at MGCCC were named 2021 Siemens Technical Scholars. They are Queena Myles, Nicholas Nguyen, Vivian Tran and Brandon Wallace. Scholars were nominated by their award-winning programs for outstanding academic achievement, strong leadership capacities, and a deep commitment to give back to their communities.
Overall, U.S. jobs in STEM fields are projected to grow at almost double the rate of non-STEM occupations. More than half of all STEM jobs across the United States require no more than an associate degree and pay wages that average more than $50,000 annually. The community colleges honored with the Excellence and Equity in Community College STEM Award are playing a unique role in working to meet this demand. The selection committee identified exemplary programs that deliver exceptional training for jobs that require strong STEM technical skills, some classroom hands-on training and a postsecondary credential below the four-year degree. Importantly, these programs are successful in reaching and supporting populations that are underrepresented in STEM fields, such as students of color, low-income students and females.
As part of the award, the winning programs, in partnership with the Aspen Institute, have selected 44 outstanding students as Siemens Technical Scholars. They will receive a scholarship of $3,500 to $10,000 to continue their education or pay student loan debt. These diverse scholars will share their stories to demonstrate the economic and personal opportunity available through STEM careers.